Access to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

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Santo Amaro do Maranhão no Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
Santo Amaro do Maranhão in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is located in the state of Maranhão, 250 km from the capital São Luís.

The main access cities to the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park are Barreirinhas, Santo Amaro do Maranhão and Primeira Cruz.

The only airport in the region is Barreirinhas Airport, which receives only charter flights from São Luís do Maranhão at a very high cost.

Therefore, the best airport for those wishing to visit Lençóis Maranhenses is São Luís International Airport, which receives direct flights from several cities in Brazil.

Mapa Lençóis Maranhenses
Map of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

Attractions of the Lençóis Maranhense National Parks

Atrativos do Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
Attractions of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

Dunes and Lagoons

Lençóis Maranhense National Parkhas 155 thousand hectares of pure nature and many surprises for the traveller, in an itinerary that includes seductive visuals and unforgettable sunsets, abundant flora and fauna. Great expanses of dunes, lagoons, sea baths await the tourist in this true sanctuary of nature.

Beaches

Ponta do Mangue, Moitas, Vassouras, Morro do Boi, and Barra do Tatu are some of the beautiful beaches that await the tourist in Barreirinhas. All of them can be reached by boat from the municipal centre.

Mandacaru

A fishing village where the main attraction is a 54 metre high lighthouse, from where you can see a beautiful view of the park.

Caburé

Caburé is a delightful refuge where visitors can bathe in the sea and wash the salt off their bodies in fresh water. Good overnight option. There are chalets and good food. It is in the district of Barreirinhas.

Access to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

Mapa do Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
Map of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

The Park is accessible from two towns: Barreirinhas, to the east, and Santo Amaro do Maranhão, to the west. In both, receptive agencies sell tours that lead to the largest and closest lagoons.

1. Barreirinhas

Barreirinhas is the city considered the main gateway to the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.

Barreirinhas is the best known city of Lençóis Maranhenses, Barreirinhas is the main base for those who want to explore the region. The place offers good infrastructure, several hotels and inns, quality restaurants, developed commerce and many tourist agencies that take travellers on tours. Because it is the most complete city among all the bases, Barreirinhas ends up being the choice of most people who visit Lençóis Maranhenses.

If you are travelling to the region, read also about Santo Amaro and Atins. The other two may suit you better.

Those who choose to stay in Barreirinhas will find a much more bustling city compared to Atins and Santo Amaro.

And that also means that there will be a lot more tourists! It will be easier to find groups to do the tours and, at the same time, it will be almost impossible to visit an empty lagoon. The truth is that it is practically irresistible to stay in Barreirinhas, since there are the most famous tours of Lençóis Maranhenses.

Barreirinhas no Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses

Although it is also possible to get there from neighbouring Santo Amaro do Maranhão and Primeira Cruz, it is there that tourists are most concentrated.

Tourist attractions in Barreirinhas

1. Circuit of the Blue Lagoon

This is the most visited attraction in the Conservation Unit.

Lagoa Azul vista de cima - opção de mergulho nos Lençóis Maranhenses
Blue Lagoon seen from above – snorkelling option in Lençóis Maranhenses

After 12 km of trails in the sandbank, the tour continues through the dune field on a trail of approximately 02 km.

Along the way, visitors can visit the Preguiça lagoon, the Esmeralda lagoon, the Blue lagoon and the Peixe lagoon, the only perennial lagoon with water throughout the year.

This attraction is the only one where there is permission for access by traction vehicle to the limits of the Preguiça lagoon, but only for visitors with locomotion difficulties and upon communication and obtaining authorisation from the National Park administration.

2. Bonita Lagoon Circuit

Located 15 km from Barreirinhas, the attraction has a medium degree of difficulty of access, as it is necessary to climb a steep dune of about 30 metres high. There is a rope to assist the climb.

Em foto panorâmica, Lagoa Bonita, no Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
In a panoramic photo, Lagoa Bonita, in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.

But the effort is rewarded with the beautiful view of both the dune field and the restinga vegetation of the National Park. After the climb, the visitor walks a few hundred metres to the Bonita lagoon.

In this attraction it is also possible to visit the Clone lagoon, baptised with this name because it was where scenes from the soap opera ‘O Clone’ of Rede Globo were recorded.

3. Lagoa da Esperança

It is the interruption of the course of the Rio Negro caused by the encounter with the dune field.

Lagoa da esperança, Barreirinhas
Lagoa da esperança, Barreirinhas

This lagoon is perennial and is not located within the dune field, but on the edge of it.

It is therefore also possible to walk through the dune field. Because it is perennial, this lagoon is ideal for visiting during the dry months, when the lagoons of the other attractions are dry. The Lagoa da Esperança is the geographical limit of the municipalities of Barreirinhas and Santo Amaro.

4. Atins
Atins nos Lençóis Maranhenses
Atins in Lençóis Maranhenses

The village of Atins is located between the sea and the Preguiças River.

Those wishing to go to the village can choose between 4×4 or speedboat trips.

Atins é um vilarejo cheio de encantos - como chegar

Access is from Barreirinhas, where the day trip to Atins departs, the line transfer and also the speedboat.

The village of Atins is located in front of the mouth of the Preguiças River, outside the National Park, but very close, making it easy to walk along the beach, sandbank, dunes and fields.

The village has a simple structure and is sought after by visitors seeking tranquillity and a closer contact with nature and the local community.

In Atins it is possible to practice sports such as kite-surfing, wind-surfing, kayaking, stand up paddle, cycling, surfing, among others.

5. Canto dos Lençóis

Located inside the National Park, the corner of the sheets, formerly called Canto do Atins, is a small village formed by traditional fishermen.

It has a beautiful view of the dune field and is close to the beach. The village has no power but there are community restaurants that serve typical food and offer simple accommodation.

It is a great support point to start the trekking and cross the dune field to the municipality of Santo Amaro.

6. Mouth of the Negro and Lagoa Verde Rio

The route to the mouth of the Rio Negro is via the beach of the National Park, leaving from Atins.

The meeting of the Negro River with the sea is the main attraction, where the visitor can bathe in the small waterfalls by the sea.

This attraction is only available when the Negro River has water, so please enquire in advance with the administration or the local reception.

In the circuit it is also possible to visit some interdunar lagoons such as the Green Lagoon, near the beach, is a 30-minute walk through the dune field, and remains with water for much of the year.

2. Santo Amaro do Maranhão

Mapa de Santo Amaro do Maranhão
Map of Santo Amaro do Maranhão

Unlike Barreirinhas, the best-known ‘entrance’ to the Lençóis,

Santo Amaro do Maranhão is parked very close to the Andorinha, Gaivota and Betânia Circuit lagoons.

Santo Amaro do Maranhão is parked very close to the Andorinha, Gaivota and Betânia Circuit lagoons.

Santo Amaro no Maranhão

But the structure of the city of Santo Amaro is smaller.

For those who enjoy adventure and hiking, it is worth visiting the lagoons of the Emendadas circuit.

On the way there is knee-deep water, blazing sun and sloping dunes. And the walk is long – an hour to go and another to come back.

If you just want to enjoy it effortlessly, Santo Amaro has even easier access to the lagoons than Barreirinhas because you can park right next to the dune to enjoy the Andorinha, Gaivota and Betânia lagoons, where it is worth watching the sunset.

As with the other “gate” to the park, private vehicles are not allowed. Nor is there any commerce in the park: you have to bring food and water.

Tourist attractions in Santo Amaro do Maranhão

1. Lagoa da Gaivota

It is the main attraction in the municipality and is considered the most beautiful landscape of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. Lagoa da Gaivota is located in a seagull nesting area, making it possible to observe the birds.

Also part of the circuit are the lagoons of Andorinha, Cajueiro and Maçarico, suitable for kitesurfing. On the way to the attraction it is possible to observe the lake of Santo Amaro.

Access can be made by hiking or by 4×4 vehicle accredited by the park.

2. Lagoa da Betânia

Like Lagoa da Esperança, this is a river course interrupted by a field of dunes. The attraction is in the village of Betânia, which offers some basic services.

Pôr do sol em lagoa do circuito Betânia, em Santo Amaro do Maranhão
Sunset in the lagoon of the Betânia circuit, in Santo Amaro do Maranhão

The variation of water colours and the landscape with the dune field in the background, makes visiting this attraction a unique experience.

3. Lagoa das Emendadas

Accessible only by hiking, there are several interdune lagoons (inside the dune field) that connect and add up to kilometres in length.

Being an attraction inside the dune field, it allows the visitor to have a dimension of the size of the Maranhão sheets.

4. Praia da Travosa

Located near the village of Travosa, a fishing community, Travosa beach has a large extension with the dune field in the background. In April there is a surf championship in the region.

3. Primeira Cruz

Mapa município de Primeira Cruz MA
Map municipality of Primeira Cruz MA

The municipality of Primeira Cruz has almost 14,000 inhabitants, but the main tourist destination is far from the city centre, it is the Povoado do Cassó which has about 600 inhabitants.

The town is a refuge for tourists seeking peace and quiet by the lagoon.
The locality is a refuge for tourists and visitors who seek peace and tranquillity by the lagoon that also serves as a source of income for fishermen, farmers and artisans in the region.

Tourist activity has also been an important source of income for residents of the village in recent years.

Tourist attractions in Primeira Cruz

1. Lagoa do Cassó

The Lagoa do Cassó is a lagoon located in the municipality of Primeira Cruz in Maranhão.

Lagoa do Cassó no município de Primeira Cruz

Cassó is the destination for those who want peace and quiet. Lagoons, clean waters and great temperature attract tourists from Maranhão and other states of the country. Over time, these natural attractions have changed the lives of the town’s residents. They discovered how sustainable tourism could become a big business.

Lagoa do Cassó is named after the hammocks at the water’s edge available for visitors to lie down and admire the charms and natural beauty of this paradise located in the city of Primeira Cruz, 207 kilometres from São Luís, in the region of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.

It has warm, clear and calm waters, reaching a depth of 20 metres during the flood season, when it crosses the sangradouro and flows into the Preguiças River (which bathes the city of Barreirinhas and the Lençóis Maranhenses).

It is surrounded by native forest, attracting bathers, as well as snorkelling and windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing. The place also offers inns and hiking trails.

The village of Cassó has around 700 inhabitants.

Since 2015, the lagoon has also hosted the Maranhão Open Water Circuit, a swimming challenge for professionals and amateurs. Competitors swim five thousand metres, almost the length of the entire lagoon, which is approximately six kilometres long.

The access is from São Luís (BR-135), passing before the viaduct of Bacabeira and following the MA-402 motorway, through Rosário, Morros, towards Barreirinhas, until Primeira Cruz. Afterwards, you can take 4×4 cars to the village.

Primitive Zone

Queimada dos Britos and Baixa Grande

Located within the dune field of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, these two patches of sandbank vegetation are true oases and a perfect overnight shelter for those seeking to trek across the park.

According to the National Park’s zoning, these regions are the Primitive Zone, where visitation can only occur at minimum impact levels.

Thus, it is forbidden to carry out tourist tours or visit the locality in motorised vehicles of any kind.

Despite this, about 30 families live in the area, and they and only them are allowed to travel in motorised vehicles for life-saving reasons and to transport people, food and materials.

It is undoubtedly the best attraction of the unit! The walks, which can last up to 5 days, are carried out along the beach and the dunes, with baths in the lagoons to refresh. Overnight stays are carried out in the communities, being a great experience of interaction with the traditional population.

The oases have the greatest diversity in vegetation and birds in the National Park and have bathing lagoons for much of the year, both inside and in the dune field.

It is mandatory to hire a Visitor Driver to make the crossing, since you will have access to the Primitive Zone of the unit.

It is very easy to get lost in the dune field, in much of the way there is no mobile phone coverage and many places go for days without the passage of people.

You are responsible for your safety, so do not venture into the National Park if you are not sure you have all the necessary physical conditions.

LENÇÓIS MARANHENSES NATIONAL PARK

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is the perfect destination for those seeking adventure and nature contemplation!!!

Walking on the white sands of the largest dune field in Brazil, refreshing yourself in crystal clear lagoons and watching the sunset are unique experiences that you will take with you for the rest of your life.

All this with the thrill of an off-road tour in accredited 4×4 vehicles specially adapted to travel the sandy and flooded terrain of the Lençóis Maranhenses sandbank.

Those who prefer long walks and interaction with traditional communities can also venture across the dune field and have the experience of staying overnight in the oases of the “Brazilian desert”.

The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, located on the eastern coast of the state of Maranhão, is the main tourism-inducing destination in the state.

It is part of the Cerrado but has a strong influence of the Caatinga and the Amazon, with common species from these three biomes.

In its 155 thousand hectares, it houses diverse and fragile ecosystems, such as the restinga, the mangrove, and a dune field that occupies 2/3 of the total area of the unit, being the main attraction of the National Park due to the interdunar lagoons that form in the rainy season of the region.

The park is inserted in 3 municipalities of Maranhão, which have a structure for receiving and driving visitors, Barreirinhas, Santo Amaro and Primeira Cruz. 

When to go

The eastern coast of Maranhão has two characteristic seasons throughout the year. The rainy season, from February to May, and the dry season, from June to January. After the rainy season, the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park presents its most beautiful scenery, as the interdunar lagoons are full.

As the dry season progresses, the lagoons dry up little by little, arriving in November with a very low level.

But it is good to make clear, this all depends on the rainfall regime of the year, so it is always good to seek information with the administration of the National Park or with the local reception.

The best time to visit the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is from May to September, but it is open all year round, from Monday to Monday, from 08:00 to 18:00.

See when to go to Lençóis Maranhenses

Level of the water of the lagoons in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

1. High water level

Nível das àguas das Lagoas no Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
High water levels of the lagoons in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

After the rainy season on the eastern coast of Maranhão, which has up to 4 months of intense rainfall, the lagoons and rivers of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park are at their maximum water level, providing visitors with the opportunity to get to know the symbol image of Lençóis Maranhenses: multicoloured lagoons surrounded by white sand dunes.


Recommended activities:

Recreation in the water, swimming;
Contemplation of lagoons and dunes;
Hiking.

Period: From May to August

2. Average water level

Nível das médio àguas das Lagoas no Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
Average water level of the lagoons in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

As the dry season takes hold, the lagoons begin to dry out due to the action of the sun and wind. During this period the lagoons are not as full but still provide limited opportunity for water recreation.

 
The landscape of the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park begins to change, the lagoons decrease in size and depth and the presence of algae and aquatic vegetation increases.
At the beginning of the rainy season the lagoons are at medium level while they fill up, however at this time it rains heavily almost daily.
 
Recommended activities:

Limited water recreation; Contemplation of lagoons and dunes; Hiking.

Period: September to October / February to April

3. Low water level

Nível das baixo àguas das Lagoas no Parque Nacional dos Lençóis Maranhenses
Low water levels of the lagoons in Lençóis Maranhenses National Park

At the height of the ‘summer’, as the dry season in the region from June to January is called, the lagoons and temporary rivers are dry or at low water levels.

The lagoons give way to pastures and floodplains, which form on top of the moist soil that was the lagoon bed. In this period water recreation is possible only in the perennial lagoons, such as Lagoa do Peixe and Lagoa da Esperança.

Recommended activities:

Water recreation in the perennial lagoons; Contemplation of dunes; Hiking. 

Period: November to January

Barreirinhas, Santo Amaro and Primeira Cruz provide access to the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.

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